Clinical Research Papers:

Neural correlates of childhood trauma with executive function in young healthy adults

Shaojia Lu _, Fen Pan, Weijia Gao, Zhaoguo Wei, Dandan Wang, Shaohua Hu, Manli Huang, Yi Xu and Lingjiang Li

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:79843-79853. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.20051

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Shaojia Lu1, Fen Pan1, Weijia Gao2, Zhaoguo Wei3,4, Dandan Wang1, Shaohua Hu1, Manli Huang1, Yi Xu1 and Lingjiang Li3

1Department of Psychiatry, The First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Key Laboratory of Mental Disorder’s Management of Zhejiang Province, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

2Department of Child Psychology, The Children's Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China

3Mental Health Institute of The Second Xiangya Hospital, Key Laboratory of Psychiatry and Mental Health of Hunan Province, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China

4Department of Psychiatry, Shenzhen Kangning Hospital, Shenzhen, Guangdong, China

Correspondence to:

Shaojia Lu, email: [email protected]

Lingjiang Li, email: [email protected]

Keywords: childhood trauma, default mode network, fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuation, functional connectivity, executive function

Received: June 24, 2017     Accepted: July 26, 2017     Published: August 07, 2017


The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship among childhood trauma, executive impairments, and altered resting-state brain function in young healthy adults. Twenty four subjects with childhood trauma and 24 age- and gender-matched subjects without childhood trauma were recruited. Executive function was assessed by a series of validated test procedures. Localized brain activity was evaluated by fractional amplitude of low frequency fluctuation (fALFF) method and compared between two groups. Areas with altered fALFF were further selected as seeds in subsequent functional connectivity analysis. Correlations of fALFF and connectivity values with severity of childhood trauma and executive dysfunction were analyzed as well. Subjects with childhood trauma exhibited impaired executive function as assessed by Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and Stroop Color Word Test. Traumatic individuals also showed increased fALFF in the right precuneus and decreased fALFF in the right superior temporal gyrus. Significant correlations of specific childhood trauma severity with executive dysfunction and fALFF value in the right precuneus were found in the whole sample. In addition, individuals with childhood trauma also exhibited diminished precuneus-based connectivity in default mode network with left ventromedial prefrontal cortex, left orbitofrontal cortex, and right cerebellum. Decreased default mode network connectivity was also associated with childhood trauma severity and executive dysfunction. The present findings suggest that childhood trauma is associated with executive deficits and aberrant default mode network functions even in healthy adults. Moreover, this study demonstrates that executive dysfunction is related to disrupted default mode network connectivity.

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